I'm a half marathoner! Is that a word?
Well, I don't care if it isn't! Yesterday morning I ran 13.1 miles without stopping and crossed the finish line of my first half marathon.
I only did it for the sticker... haha, kidding... maybe
My friend Olivea runs practically every disney half marathon, so when she moved back to NJ, she suggested I run one with her. I wasn't totally convinced, because I had never run anything more than a 5K, maybe 4 miles at most, and I was nervous. I didn't think I could do it... I didn't think I had it in me to push myself to run 13 miles. However, after talking with her and realizing I had over six months to train, I signed up. We were set to run the Divas Half Marathon in Long Island on Sunday, October 4th. While I continued to workout, I didn't start following a training program until 12 weeks out from the race, when most of the programs I found started. (Check out the first half of my training here). I continued training doing tempo/speed runs, long runs, as well as strength and cross training. It was the perfect combination, and I feel like if I only ran, I would not have done as well as I could have. Incorporating weights and cardio kickboxing gave me a new level of endurance and stamina.
So my training days fell away, and by the time my half marathon race weekend came, I felt ready. I didn't finish all of the runs that were a part of my training program, In fact, there were 4 long runs that I didn't do, but I was confident that I had done everything I could do and I was more than ready to run this race. My longest run had been 11 miles, and even though my program included a 13.5 mile run, I felt that if I was going to run 13, it was going to be on race day.
Olivea and I booked a hotel room the night before the race so that we were already in Long Island, and we didn't have to worry about waking up super early and driving an hour to the race that morning. So I took the weekend off of work, and we headed to pick up our race packets early Saturday afternoon. Thankfully, the hurricane that was supposed to hit us, didn't. We had been receiving updates all week from Run Like a Diva, who was keeping a close eye on the storm, and taking it very seriously. We received our final update on Friday... the hurricane would not hit us, and though we would experience some wind, and cold temperatures, the race was ON! When we got to the race packet pick up, we signed in and received our shirt, tutu, and bib number. We were so excited, we threw everything on and snapped a picture before walking around the health and fitness expo.
We were able to purchase some cute headbands to wear during the race, and for any workout really... mine said Run with a heart. Olivea on the other hand, fell in love with three of them, including one with a princess crown, quite fitting! I also scored an awesome belt that held my iPod. I usually run with the iPod or iPhone in my hand or on an armband, but they're quite annoying and you feel it moving with your arm with each step. Olivea, being the awesome friend that she is, grabbed me a 13.1 sticker for my truck that I just CANNOT wait to show off with pride.
We checked into our hotel soon after, and relaxed, talking about how excited we were for the following morning, and that we just could not believe it was here already. We laid out our race attire, and tried to figure out what to wear, considering we were supposed to have a hurricane and it was quite cold and windy out. I decided that I would wear capris, because those are what I had trained in, a tank top and a long sleeve dry fit shirt underneath my Divas shirt, as well as the headband, which I used to cover my ears in the beginning of the race. I also threw on my north face until I was at the start line.
When we checked in, we were given free drink vouchers at the restaurant in the hotel. While I'm not one to drink the night before a race, I couldn't turn down a free drink. We headed to the restaurant, and quickly carbed up! The restaurant, Champions, had a great feel to it - plenty of inspiring sports jerseys up on the wall, some signed, a ton of divas with their friends, and even high energy guests from a wedding! As Divas, we were given drink and food specials - a ton of signature cocktails just for us, and two pasta dishes. As much as I wanted to order something healthy, I knew my body needed carbs, so I ordered the whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, broccoli, and chicken in a white wine sauce, which was absolutely delicious, and I'm proud to say I ate the entire thing! Olivea had the penne vodka. Oh yea, I might have forgotten to mention the soft pretzels we split for an appetizer. Needless to say, we were full by the time we headed back to the room... after we explored the hotel for a bit, and found the sauna, which will give us nightmares for the rest of our lives.
You know those night before jitters you get the night before a big race? Yup, we had those. We ended up staying up, talking, a little later than we both wanted to, because we knew we had to be up at 5:00AM. Turns out, we both know our snooze button a little too well. We eventually got up, and started to get ready. We drove to the race, which only ended up being about 5 minutes away, not including the traffic we sat in just to get inside Eisenhower park. While we sat in traffic though, I was able to eat my PB Kind bar, and my banana! Perfect pre-race meal! We had to walk far to the start line, but it was the perfect pre-race stretch, and they even warmed us up at the start line before the 5Ks started! There were 4 5K waves, and Olivea ended up running the second one. She hadn't been feeling well the entire week, and she listened to her body, knowing it wouldn't make it a full half marathon, and ran the 5K instead! I'm so proud of her for giving it her all!
8:15 came around and finally I lined up at the start line. I was one of the first people to start. Sal convinced me to go in the front, and he was right. I'm glad I ran with the beginning of the group because those were some determined ladies who really helped me push the entire time! I noticed a lot of people were running at the end of the line, even in the beginning of the race. I had quite a lot of distance between me and some of the other runners behind me, so that made me push even harder. I knew people were using me as someone they could potentially catch up with, and I tried to run faster so no one could keep up. I used a few people who ran in front of me as motivation to stay with them along the race. I have to admit, the first few miles were tough, but then my legs got into a rhythm and I felt like I was flying. My playlist that Sal had made was blasting, and I watched for the signs as I knocked off mile after mile.
When you run do you do math in your head? Okay, so I have 13.1 miles, that's a little more than 4 5Ks, and once you start to run a few miles you're like okay halfway there, that means two more 5Ks, about 1 hour left... okay 3 miles left, that's nothing you can do that easily, okay 1 mile you better push yourself, you're so close to the finish line... there it is! No? Is that just me? Well then fine, it works for me!
The crowd and audience helped motivate me to keep running, especially when my legs wanted me to stop. They had cheerleaders from the local schools cheering everyone on, and family members along the race path with awesome homemade signs who were cheering everyone on, not just those that they knew. It made me smile, and I nodded my thanks, as I focused on each breath I took. My breathing never faltered once, and although my calves were numb at some points, and I had about two side stitches, I never felt out of breath. There were water stops along the side, as well as bathrooms, that I assumed I would have needed, but didn't. I was handed water twice by volunteers, and only took about a sip each time, without stopping. I couldn't stop, the moment I stopped I wouldn't start again. The moment I stopped would be after that finish line! I fought like hell against the wind.
With less than a mile left we were given our boas and tiaras. When a person in the crowd screamed I was so close, less than a half a mile away, I pushed with everything I had left in me... which honestly, wasn't all that much. I saw the finish line ahead, and I saw it read 1:59. Now, when I was training and seeing my tempos, I figured I could complete my first half in under 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, when Sal said I could do it in 2 hours or less, I KNEW deep down, that I had it in me to do just that. I knew Sal and Olivea would be at the finish line waiting for me, and I knew they could see me as I crossed that finish line. I would not let myself stop or slow down. I would make it UNDER 2 hours. I crossed the finish line at 1 hour 59 minutes and 35 seconds.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was handed my medal, a glass of champagne and some refuel treats. I was ecstatic, happy beyond belief, and so so proud of myself. I looked around for Sal and Olivea, and there they were, just as happy for me, as I was for myself. I cried happy tears as I hugged them both, and could not believe what I had just done. Though, if I took my own advice that I give to my clients, I can do anything I set my mind to, I just have to believe. Olivea and I clinked glasses and drank our champagne, and I refueled with pretzels and my alpha amino drink. To say I was overflowing with happiness would be an understatement. In that moment I was overwhelmed, feeling so many positive emotions for myself, and feeling even more proud and confident in myself than I ever had before. I was also so happy to have such an amazing support system - Olivea for pushing me out of my comfort zone and being there at the finish line to hug me and cry with me, Sal for his never ending support and for being there for me at the finish line looking even more proud than I felt, my parents for being there when I got home to tell me how proud they were of me, and my amazing friends and family who wished me a ton of luck and sent love all weekend on social media and over the phone. I could not have done it without everyone standing behind me.
I used to say I wasn't a runner, but I am.
I am a half marathoner.